Sibling Rivalry

I grew up in a family of 4 boys and no girls.  Needless to say, that made things a little bit competitive from time to time.  We would compete at Monopoly, Careers, crokinole, pinochle, bridge, Risk, Poleconomy, Clue, Masterpiece, Stratego, Wide World, and others.  On some rainy Saturdays, my younger brother Lyle and I would decide to play every game in the games cupboard.  Of course we raced our bikes, shot baskets, swam, played tag, buzz off (a sophisticated hide and seek) etc.  The competitive gene continues into adulthood.

Now my little brother is trying to produce more renewable energy than I.  One of his recent blog postings bragged that they had produced 500,000 gallons of biodiesel at the plant that Piedmont Biofuels has built.  Most of this has been since April, so production has ramped strongly.

Needless to say, this has me worried.  So I thought I would calculate where we both stand since inception.  The Ferndale wind farm has produced 29,675,000 kWh since it was built.  Since a kWh has 3412 BTU’s, this is equal to 101,251,000,000 BTU’s.  Diesel has 139,000 BTU/US gallon, so Piedmont Biofuels has produced 69,500,000,000 BTU’s.  Good.  I still beat my brother.   And with Ravenswood coming on in December, my production should triple, so we should be able to keep the lead.

And while the lead is substantial, and unequivocal, I know that this is not the end of the story.  It is always better to be prepared for these things.  You see, my brother likes to argue such things.  And so I imagine the conversation will go something like this.

Glen:  Looks like I am still champion.  More BTU’s is better.  But you are finally giving a good fight.  Nice try.
Lyle:  But Glen, all BTU’s are not created equal.  Can you drive a car on electricity?  Can you move goods?

Glen:  Subways and streetcars move with electricity.  And golf carts.  I’m looking forward to the plug in hybrids.

Lyle:  It seems to me that creating something that can be used now is more important.

Glen:  Have you ever tried to run a light bulb on diesel?  Or a computer?  Or a refrigerator?  It is clear that electricity BTU’s are better BTU’s.

Lyle:  You can generate electricity with diesel.  But you can’t make diesel from electricity.

Glen:  That’s true.  But when you make electricity from diesel, it is only about 30% efficient.  Should we subtract 70% from your BTU total?  Besides, did you subtract the BTU’s you used to make the biodiesel?

Lyle (laughing):  No, we won’t subtract 70%.  And no, we haven’t calculated how many BTU’s we used to make the biodiesel – you know I don’t do math.  The biodiesel is mostly made from the waste stream, and we use biodiesel in our delivery vehicles.  And have you calculated the line losses to deliver your electricity to customers?

Glen:  The losses would be about 5% – the power is all used by customers on the local feeder line.  I’ll take off 5% if you take off 70%.

Lyle: No deal.  I’m gaining fast, and we have figured out some ways to increase our plant output.  I’m catching up fast.  This isn’t over.
Glen:  No, it isn’t over.  We’ll check in a couple of months.  And I still beat you on the History category in Trivial pursuit.

Lyle:  That’s revisionist history I think.

Both laugh, and return to building their renewable energy output.

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